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Wednesday, May 09, 2012, 09:00 pm PT (12:00 am ET)

GMIC: Tencent founder calls Android openness a 'mixed blessing'

Tencent founder Pony Ma on Thursday called the openness of Google's Android mobile operating system a "mixed blessing," while noting that Apple's iPhone is more secure than Android.

Ma, whose company produces the popular Chinese IM service QQ, made the remarks during a keynote presentation and fireside chat at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing. While discussing the vital importance of security in the mobile internet age, he expressed a belief that the industry is on the verge of a "major security crisis."

However, when interviewer Wang Lifen asked what exactly the security risks were on her iPhone, Ma reassured her that Apple's platform is "more secure" than other ecosystems.

"With Apple, the App Store is strictly controlled, but on Android…you can download from various platforms," he said.

Though the executive did note that the iPhone is not "100 percent secure," he pointed to the fact that iOS software is all "manually tested" before being approved for the App Store as a relative strength over Android.


Tencent CEO Pony Ma speaking at the Global Mobile Internet Conference


Ma went on to call the open aspect of Android a "mixed blessing" because of the security challenges presented by the lack of strong management for the platform's many application stores. According to him, the frequent rooting of Android phones and the fact that the platform "doesn't have a lot of alerts" are other security-related disadvantages to Android.

In spite of his warnings of potential security issues, Ma described the current state of the mobile internet industry as a "Golden Age" with the proliferation of smartphones and 3G internet. "In the past [during the PC internet era], a person spent two to four hours online, but now we call it 'always online,'" he said.

The Tencent founder also highlighted a continued industry shift away from the Web and toward apps. “In the future the app will be king, that’s the future of our industry,” Ma remarked.

Ma isn't alone in his characterization of iOS as more secure than Android. Last year, security firm Symantec published a report describing iOS as having "full protection" against malware attacks and Android as having "little protection." For its part, Google has taken steps to improve security on Android. In February, the company announced a new "Bouncer" malware detector layer to its official Android application store.